Good morning, Sixers fans. How nervous are you after Atlanta’s 103-100 victory in Game 4 evened this suddenly suspenseful Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games apiece?
Joel Embiid is dealing with a knee injury, Danny Green is out for the series, and the Hawks seem to have renewed confidence after the win.
There are many statistics that led to the Hawks’ winning Game 4 on Monday, but taking care of the ball is the main one that has gotten them back in this series.
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Hawks’ big turnaround came from not turning the ball over
The Hawks have not done a great job of limiting turnovers in this series, but they did an about-face in Game 4.
After averaging 15.3 turnovers during the first three games, Atlanta committed only four in Game 4. Trae Young, who saw relentless pressure and double-teaming, had two of the turnovers in just more than 40 minutes. He also had 18 assists, giving him a tidy 9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And this was while facing first-team all-defensive selection Ben Simmons and second-team choice Matisse Thybulle.
“It was really a main key to this series,” Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said Tuesday about turnovers. “Philly does a great job of forcing turnovers. Even in the beginning of the series, that is what we talked about that we could not do, turn the ball over because turnovers fuel their transition; quick shots, long rebounds fuel their transition.”
To McMillan’s point, in the first three games the Sixers averaged 17 fastbreak points. On Monday, the Sixers were outscored by Atlanta, 9-5, in transition points.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers said the Hawks deserve plenty of credit, but added there were plenty of holes in his team’s defense.
“They still shot like 36% [36.6%]. It’s not like our defense was bad, but it wasn’t good either,” Rivers said Tuesday.
Rivers said one of the reasons Atlanta’s turnover total was so low was the Sixers didn’t reach certain defensive goals. He said one of those goals is to get 40 deflections.
“We had 18 [deflections], and zero in the fourth quarter,” Rivers said. “There were a lot of signs in that game to prove to us that we have to be a better version of ourselves.”
Simple math also suggests that committing fewer turnovers gives a team more chances to score. That was the case Monday. The Hawks had 101 field-goal attempts, and the Sixers had 85.
“We had over 100 attempts at the basket,” McMillan said. “That was due to us doing a great job taking care of the ball.”
Marcus Hayes writes that Ben Simmons’ constant refusal to shoot cost the Sixers another NBA playoff game.
Young’s mysterious shoulder injury didn’t stop him from tormenting the Sixers.
Keith Pompey writes that Simmons admitted that he needed to be more aggressive and attack more in Game 4.
David Murphy writes that Joel Embiid’s injured knee will decide the series vs. the Hawks.
The Sixers were well represented on the NBA all-defensive teams.
More on turnovers
In NBA statistics through Monday, the top five leaders in turnovers were already out of the playoffs.
Here is the list with numbers of turnovers per game:
1. Julius Randle, New York, 4.6
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas, 4.6
3. Russell Westbrook, Washington, 4.2
4. LeBron James, LA Lakers, 4.2
5. Bradley Beal, Washington, 4.2
Joel Embiid was the highest Sixer on the list, No. 18 at 2.6 per game. That is below his regular-season average of 3.1 and a number that is more than respectable, considering all the double- and triple-teaming he has faced this postseason.
in the playoffs, possessions are more important, and thus there is a greater emphasis on turnovers. We know that ball-dominant players such as Doncic and James are going to have high turnover rates. James, for all his playoff success, has averaged 3.6 turnovers in the postseason, so this year’s total is high for him.
Eastern Conference semifinal series vs. Atlanta Hawks
Wednesday: Game 5, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, TNT
Friday: Game 6, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena, ESPN
Sunday: *Game 7, 8 p.m. Wells Fargo Center, TNT
Passing the rock
Question: How come when Joel goes down, Ben doesn’t pick up his game? — Keith Boyer on Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Keith. This is a very complicated question. We all remember one regular-season game that Embiid missed because of back tightness — a 134-123 loss at Utah in February — in which Simmons scored a career-high 42 points. That is not sticking up for Simmons, and that was also in the regular season.
The bottom line is that I think Simmons is adversely affected by his recent free-throw shooting swoon. We all know he’s never been a good foul shooter, but this year in the playoffs, he is down to 34%. I think Simmons won’t go as strong to the basket for fear of being fouled.
He helps the Sixers in so many ways, including his defense on Young, who is putting up big scoring numbers but is shooting just 39% the last three games when Simmons has been the primary defender. I don’t see Simmons breaking out offensively for the rest of the postseason whether Embiid is healthy or not.